Back in the 'sixties it seemed that almost anyone could become a pop star and the charts were often filled with singing nuns, singing postmen and even singing animals. But one contender who has been left out of the history books is religious vocalist Michael Sedgwick, known to many (well to his family at least) as The Singing Farmer.
The sleeve text reveals that Michael was actually a classically trained singer. He was once a member of the popular George Mitchell Singers, but had to give it all up to help run the family farm. Later he relaunched himself in a local operatic society, which eventually led to appearences on a religous radio show, BBC Radio 2's 'Five To Ten' show (no I haven't heard of it either). His arranger was well-known organist George Blackmore and they present songs from the show on this EP, sung in the style of a wandering minstrel.
The songs are a little twee but they have a certain something which I can't quite put into words. Amazingly Thank You is penned by Roy Budd collaborator Jack Fishman but it's a long way from the funky songs on the Get Carter soundtrack. Here, against a happy-go-lucky harpshicord backing, Michael praises the good Lord for all manner of "lovely" things from the hills and the sky, to "every note of music". Judging by the way he's gazing at the little lamb on the sleeve this creature is another such "lovely thing", especially served with vegetables and mint sauce. Yummy.
I can find no further info about The Singing Farmer but the sleeve notes reveal that Michael's regular accompanist was keyboard player Ron Tandy. He passed away in 2000 and the Oxford University Library Newsletter carried the following obituary:
We announce with great regret the death on Friday 9 June at the age of eighty-seven, of Ron Tandy, known to generations of readers and Bodleian friends as a stalwart member of the staff of the Map Room. He joined the Library as a Bodley Boy in 1928 at the age of fifteen, and apart from war service in the RAF, remained on the staff until his retirement in 1978. Retirement, however, was hardly the word, since for about ten years after this he continued to be an arts presenter for BBC Radio Oxford in the programmes Cabbages & Kings, and Tandy on Sunday. He was himself much involved in the local arts scene. Already in the RAF he had formed a comedy act with Ted Cordeaux, later the Law Librarian, and in later years performed in cabaret with Michael Sedgwick 'The Singing Farmer'. In addition he played a lively part in the social life of the Library, in the Drama Group and the staff parties. He was perhaps best known as Musical Director, for over twenty-five years, of the Abingdon Operatic Society, which he did much to establish as one of the major local societies. On his retirement from the directorship he was elected Life President in recognition of his services, and took a keen interest in its activities until quite recently."
- Contributed by: David Noades
Images: Front Cover
Catalogue: EP XPR3063
Credits: Musical arrangements by George Blackmore